How Do I Use the SMS/Text Messaging and Voice Broadcast Feature?

IN THIS ARTICLE:
Learn more about iClassPro's SMS/text messaging and voice broadcast feature and how to use it.

Setup

NOTE: This feature is currently available at the rates shown below. Credits must be purchased prior to the use of this feature. Because this service incurs additional fees, you must be logged into a profile with "Admin Access" permissions enabled whenever you purchase credits. Replies are not available.

Country/Cost Per Credit SMS Voice
US/Canada ($0.03 USD) X X
Australia ($0.08 USD + additional monthly fee) X X
United Kingdom ($0.03 USD) X *
For all other countries, please contact us for availability and pricing. * *

* Subject to phone number and feature availability.

To set up this service for the first time, go to SETTINGS > SETUP > GENERAL SETTINGS > SMS & VOICE. You must have payment information on file in your iClassPro account to set up a number and purchase credits for messaging. (Payment information can be entered under SETTINGS>BILLING INFORMATION.)

Customizing SMS/Voice options

You can customize options related to SMS Messages under SETTINGS > SETUP > GENERAL SETTINGS > SMS & VOICE>"Message Options."

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  • Message header - (Limited to 50 characters) - This message will be prepended to the beginning of every SMS message that is sent and will contribute to the 160 character message limit. (Example: "Your Business Name.")
    • NOTE: The Message Header is NOT included with the signup message.
  • Message footer - (Limited to 50 characters) - This message will be appended to the end of every SMS message that is sent and will contribute to the 160 character message limit. (Example: "To opt out, reply STOP.")
    • NOTE: The Message Footer is NOT included with the signup message.
  • Signup Message - (Limited to 160 characters) - This message will be sent out automatically only once when a phone is opted in to SMS communication, either by a staff member or when the family performs the opt-in task via the Customer Portal or Customer Portal app. It will also be sent if the family texts the gym’s SMS number to opt-in.
    • Each message sent will consume one SMS credit.
    • NOTE: the Message Header and Footer are NOT included with the Signup Message.
  • Available SMS Hours
    • Start Time/End Time - Defines the time window that SMS option is available on the account for use. Sending mass SMS messages will only be available between these times.
      • Before or after these times, clicking the mass SMS message icon will result in a warning message, with an option to override based on permissions. Please note that messages are sent one at a time and may finish sending after the end time.

Consider Updating Your Policies

Businesses that use Voice Broadcast and SMS may get several questions about how the SMS tool will be utilized. We highly recommend outlining policies for your staff about how and why SMS may be used to communicate with customers.

Once this is decided, relay this information to your customers by updating your Family Policies (SETTINGS>POLICIES>FAMILY POLICIES) to include a section related to SMS/Voice communications so customers can review this information before signing up to receive messages.

Sending Out Messages

In order to send out mass SMS/Voice messages, staff members must have the "Mass Voice/Text" task permission enabled.

After enabling text messages on the family's page and purchasing SMS credits, the process is relatively simple.

From the FAMILIES, STUDENTS, ENROLLMENTS, STAFF, or CLASSES page, use filters to narrow your search results to the intended recipients of the message. Select recipients by checking the box next to their names or by using the Select all box at the top of the page next to the column titles.

Once the customers are selected, click either the SMS/Text icon (left) or the Voice Broadcast icon (right) at the bottom of the screen.

SMS Eligibility

Since text messages cost money not only to send, but to receive (carrier costs), customers must voluntarily opt into this service. Normally, we recommend sending out an email blast, adding an announcement or posting a notice in your facility to inform customers that they can opt-in to receiving these messages from inside the Customer Portal. This can be done by logging into the Portal, editing their family information and selecting Yes for text messages next to their text compatible phone numbers (as shown below)

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With consent, a staff member can also make these changes inside of the staff side of iClassPro from within a family or another staff member's record. (Depending on laws in your area, you may want to get  consent in writing.)

SMS/Text Messaging Instructions

After clicking the SMS/Text icon, a new window will appear titled Send SMS Message

Clicking the SMS icon from the FAMILIES, STUDENTS, ENROLLMENTS or CLASSES page outside of the designated “Available SMS Hours” will launch a warning prompt rather than the actual SMS Message window. This can be overridden to send the message anyway if the staff member has been granted the "Mass Text Availability Override" permission.)

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Next, as the window opens, a quick search will take place to find eligible SMS phone numbers. During this search, you may see a loading image at the top of the window. Staff can begin composing the SMS message at this point, but the Send button will be temporarily disabled until the search is complete and the "SMS Details" section loads.

If the use of bad variables will result in the customer receiving a blank SMS message, the message will not be sent and an error/exception will be noted in the Audit Log.

From the FAMILIES, STUDENTS, ENROLLMENTS, or STAFF page

After clicking the SMS/Text icon, a new window will appear titled Send SMS Message.

After the window loads, the following fields will be displayed under SMS Details:

  • # of SMS messages being sent - which represents the number of customer phone numbers out of those selected that have enabled this feature.
  • # of SMS Credits - the number of credits available from prior purchases to send this message (if there are not enough credits to send the message to the selected group, you will also see a red notification).
  • __ of 160 characters left - one standard text message is limited to 160 characters.
    • NOTE: use of emojis or other non-standard characters limits the number of characters per message to 70.

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An option to "Select Template" will be displayed. If a custom SMS template exists for the page from which you are accessing the SMS Message window, it will be listed in the drop-down menu for you to choose.

  • NOTE: selecting a template will automatically populate the "Message" field.

If the Header or Footer are defined, they will display before/after the message field in the SMS Message window and their character count will be subtracted from the 160 max count allowed per text message. To ensure that they are included with every text message sent, the Header/Footer fields cannot be edited from this view.

After composing your message, click Send. 

Canceling the SMS message background task may not prevent all SMS messages from being sent. Messages are queued to be sent very quickly and once queued, the task cannot be stopped. We strongly recommend carefully reviewing all SMS messages before clicking the button to send it.

From the CLASSES page

Set the "Enrollment Date" filter on the left-hand side of the page to reflect the date on which the families  to which you wish to send an SMS message were/are going to be active.

After clicking the SMS/Text icon, a new window will appear titled Send SMS Message.

After the window loads, the following fields will be displayed under SMS Details:

  • Send by - choose to send the SMS either "One per family", "One per student", or "One per enrollment."
  • Select Template - if a custom SMS template exists for the page from which you are accessing the SMS Message window, it will be listed in the drop-down menu for you to choose.
    • NOTE: selecting a template will automatically populate the "Message" field.
  • Send a Copy to All Phone Numbers On The Family Record – allows you to send a copy of the SMS message to every phone number associated with the family that has opted in to receive SMS/Text messages.  If this option is disabled, the system will only send a message if the primary phone number associated with the family account has opted in to receive them.
  • Enrollment Types - allows you to limit recipients only to families who have an enrollment of the specified Type on the selected "Enrollment Date."
  • # of SMS messages being sent - which represents the number of customer phone numbers out of those selected that have enabled this feature. By default, this number will only reflect primary phone numbers; the number may change if you enable the option to "Send a Copy to All Phone Numbers On The Family Record" or add multiple enrollment types.
    • NOTE: If none of the families associated with the selected class(es) have opted in for text messaging, a notification will be displayed alerting you to this fact.
  • # of SMS Credits - the number of credits available from prior purchases to send this message. (If there are not enough credits to send the message to the selected group, you will also see a red notification.)
    • NOTE: If none of the families associated with the selected class(es) have opted in for text messaging, a notification will be displayed alerting you to this fact.
  • __ of 160 characters left - one standard text message is limited to 160 characters.
    • NOTE: use of emojis or other non-standard characters limits the number of characters per message to 70.

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If the Header or Footer are defined, they will display before/after the message field in the SMS Message window and their character count will be subtracted from the 160 max count allowed per text message. To ensure that they are included with every text message sent, the Header/Footer fields cannot be edited from this view.

After composing your message, click Send. 

Canceling the SMS message background task may not prevent all SMS messages from being sent. Messages are queued to be sent very quickly and once queued, the task cannot be stopped. We strongly recommend carefully reviewing all SMS messages before clicking the button to send it.

Audit Log entries

Our automated system will begin sending out the messages. The initial staff request will create an entry in your audit log, noting that that staff member "Requested to send SMS message to [amount of families/students]." There will also be an entry showing the total number of messages that are queued to be sent:

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As each message is delivered (or not), a separate Audit Log entry will be created, listed as being initiated by a "3rd Party" (this being the third party service iClassPro uses for the SMS/Voice feature).

The entry will read: SMS message delivered to [phone number]. [#] Credits used. [#] Remaining.

The number of remaining credits will be adjusted with each entry to keep an ongoing record of remaining credits.

NOTE: If the use of bad variables will result in the customer receiving a blank SMS message, the message will not be sent and an error/exception will be noted in the Audit Log.

Fee details

A standard text message is limited to 160 characters (including header and footer). One message to one recipient at or under this limit will cost one credit ($0.03 USD).

Credits will be charged for any message that returns a "Delivered" or "Undelivered" response. Any message that returns a status of "Failed" will not charge a credit.

Customer Responses

The messaging system in iClassPro only works one way. There is not a capability to receive messages back from customers through the SMS/Voice number.

Unsubscribing/Resubscribing from SMS by Text

However, customers can reply to the number to subscribe or unsubscribe. To unsubscribe after receiving a message, the customer can reply with "Stop", "Unsubscribe", "Cancel", "End" or "Quit". To resubscribe after stopping messages, a customer can reply to the number with "Start", "Yes" or "Unstop". 

Voice Broadcast Eligibility

All customers at all numbers (US and Canada) are eligible to receive a recorded voice broadcast, making this the most sure-fire way to send out your messages. But if a customer misses the call, it can be nice to have a text message they can read later.

Voice Broadcast Instructions

When sending Voice Broadcasts from the CLASSES page, be sure to set the "Enrollment Date" filter on the left-hand side of the page to reflect the date on which the families to which you wish to send a Voice Broadcast were/are going to be active.

Another window will appear asking for your phone number. Enter a phone number where you can be reached directly and you will receive a phone call from the Voice Broadcast System. Say "hello" when you answer the call to initiate the instructions which will walk you through completing the call.

To minimize costs, we recommend scripting the message you are sending beforehand, keeping it short and minimizing the amount of time it takes to answer and complete the call for the recording. 

NOTE: Please be aware that the automated system assumes that if a call is answered, a live person is on the other end and begins playing your pre-recorded message as soon as it detects that it has been picked up. This means that if the customer does not answer their phone and it goes to voicemail, the message they receive may be cut off, missing the first part of the message (depending on the length of their voicemail greeting). This behavior cannot be prevented and credit(s) will still be deducted for the call.

Fee details

With Voice Broadcasting, there are two credit fees involved in completing the process:

  • One credit is spent for each minute spent on the automated phone call in which you record the outgoing message.
  • Voice broadcasts cost one credit per minute per recipient, so if you record a two minute long message, you will pay 2 credits per phone number that is dialed.

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Once you hang up from your recorded call, your messages will be sent through the automated system.

Message Recommendations

To ensure that your messages are being received and are not flagged by mobile carriers as potential spam, keep the following in mind when composing your messages:

  • Identify your business or service. Since the phone number displayed with your message does not match your usual phone number, they may not associate it with your business and report it as spam. If the phone number is reported too many times, the carrier may block all messages from that number in the future.
    • We recommend using the "Message Header" to include this information in all communications.
  • Pay attention to how the message is formatted and written. Long messages or those that overuse capitalization may cause users to become suspicious and report the message as spam.
    • Keep in mind that the maximum length of SMS messages is 160 characters, including any headers and footers.
  • Avoid aggressive language such as "you must" or "you are required to." Consider alternatives such as "we suggest" or "it is recommended" instead.
  • Do not use URL shorteners. Depending on the carrier, using URL shortening services can cause messages to be blocked/rejected. For example, AT&T rejects messages containing links from these URLs (other carriers may have their own restrictions):
    • bc.vc
    • bit.ly
    • budurl.com
    • Clicky.me
    • goo.gl
    • is.gd
    • lc.chat
    • s2r.co
    • soo.gd
    • Tiny.cc
    • tinyurl.com
  • Provide clear opt-out instructions. If customers cannot easily see how to opt out/unsubscribe, they may contact their carrier to request that the carrier block your messages.
    • We recommend using the "Message Footer" to include this information in all communications.
  • Limit use of emojis and other non-standard characters. The use of emojis or other non-standard characters limits the number of characters per message to 70 (instead of the usual 160).

Need more assistance?

Customer support is available at 1-877-554-6776 Mon - Fri, 9 am to 9 pm (CT) and Sat, 9 am to 6 pm (CT).